Education Vital Signs: 21st Century Skills

There was a time, a generation or so ago, when the better (and more affluent) students went to college, and everybody else found jobs in manufacturing or other fields that didn’t require a college or high school degree. That time is long gone. In past decades, the demographics of the workplace has changed dramatically, with millions more women and minorities entering the workforce. Also changed is the presumption that a high school degree, or less, is good enough to thrive in today’s society. Globalization and rapidly changing technology mean that all students must graduate form high school with college-ready skills if they are to be successful in college, career, and life. These 21st century skills include such things as education in the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and the development of “soft” skills like the ability to work in groups.

Below are some of the latest studies on how to develop 21st century skills:

Workers lack training and skills
A statement by the Committee for Economic Development, Boosting Postsecondary Education Performance, says that, despite high unemployment rates, U.S. business leaders cannot find workers with the training and skills they need to fill jobs. Increasingly, people who have no training beyond high school will fail to find gainful employment. The statement urges the business community to become guiding partners with -- and advocates for -- the “broad-access” institutions (less-selective colleges, and community and technical colleges) that will have to meet the challenge of enlarging the pool of skilled American workers.
May 2012

2011 Talent Shortage Survey

Fifty-two percent of U.S. employers participating in the Manpower Group’s 2011 Talent Shortage Survey reported difficulty finding skilled applicants to fill vacant positions, up 38 percentage points from 2010. U.S. companies had the most difficulty locating skilled trades workers, sales representatives, and engineers. The survey’s authors predict that talent will become a key competitive differentiator, and that only the countries and organizations whose workers are equipped with the right skills will be able to position themselves for success in a rapidly changing world economy.

May 2011

Education at a Glance 2011

A study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Education at a Glance 2011, says that 26 percent of all postsecondary individuals within the G20 countries are in the U.S., followed by China (12 percent) and then Japan (11.5 percent). Forty-one percent of the U.S. adult population has a postsecondary degree. However, attainment levels among those just entering the job market (aged 25-34) are lower than those leaving the job market (aged 55-64). The rate of degree attainment in the U.S. is actually declining.

October 2011

Digital Learning and Technology

“Digital Learning and Technology,” a report from the Alliance for Excellent Education, makes five recommendations for federal policy changes that will help education “seize the moment” to maximize technology and digital learning to raise student achievement. The report also says that technology can be used to assist with the implementation of the common core state standards by helping state and district efforts to develop content, assessments, and instructional and professional development strategies.

August 2011

The Undereducated American

A report from the Center on Education and the Workforce, “The Undereducated American,” says that a lack of college educated workers that began in 1990 has allowed income inequality in the U.S. to grow precipitously. While the demand for college-educated workers is growing at a rate of 2 percent a year, the supply of such workers is lagging behind, only growing at 1.5 percent a year. The report predicts that, if we continue to under-produce college-educated workers at this same rate, the earnings’ disparity between those holding a bachelor’s degree and those holding only a high school diploma will reach 96 percent by 2025.

June 2011

Priced Out

The financial aid policies of colleges and universities, states, and the federal government do not expand, but rather limit, access to higher education for low-income youth. Priced Out, a new report from The Education Trust, says that the average low-income family will end up paying or borrowing an amount equal to 72 percent of its annual income each year that it sends one child to a four-year college. This represents the “net price” of a college education: the amount families must pay after grant aid.

June 2011

Slow Off the Mark
A report by the Center for American Progress, Slow Off the Mark, says that early learning is crucial to later success in science, math, and technology fields. It claims many elementary teachers are ill-prepared to teach math and science, pointing out that teachers can pass the licensing exam in most states without passing the math portion of the test. The report recommends raising admission standards to elementary teacher preparation programs and pay-for-performance to attract the best candidates to elementary teaching positions.
May 2011

Preparing Students for College and Careers

MetLife released a new survey of Fortune 100 executive, middle and high school teacher, student, and parent views about students graduating from public schools ready for college and a career, Preparing Students for College and Careers. It finds that 84 percent of the students and 77 percent of the executives surveyed “strongly agree” that there will be no job opportunities for current students who have no education beyond high school. Seventy-five percent of the students said it was “very likely” they would go on to college, but teachers said only 51 percent of their students would ever graduate from college.

March 2011

Brown Center Report on Education

Part I of the 2010 Brown Center’s annual report on American education covers America’s mediocre performance on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), media reaction to it, and myths surrounding international assessments. Part II considers how states receiving federal Race to the Top funds fared on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and why some states received grants despite poor performance on that assessment. Part III examines how well the NAEP aligns with the Common Core State Standards.

February 2011

One in 5 High School Applicants Can’t Enlist

About 20 percent of high school graduates applying to the military fail to meet minimum standards on its entrance exam, with young people of color far less likely to pass than white applicants, according to an Education Trust study. Hawaii had the highest ineligible rate (38.3 percent), followed closely by Mississippi (37.8 percent), and the District of Columbia (32.5 percent). Since the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery assesses wide-ranging occupational skills, low-scoring applicants are likely to find that they also cannot succeed in the civilian workforce.

December 2010

Help Wanted
Jobs requiring postsecondary education in the U.S. will increase from 59 percent to 63 percent over the next decade, according to a new report from Georgetown University, Help Wanted. The report finds that, as computers are increasingly used to automate repetitive tasks that lesser-skilled workers routinely perform, the value placed on non-repetitive tasks (and those who can perform them) increases accordingly, making postsecondary education and training gatekeepers to the middle class. The report includes a jobs forecast for each state.
June 2010

Are We Beginning to See the Light
Parents and the American public are buying into the need to ramp up STEM education. Nine in 10 of those surveyed for Public Agenda’s new survey, Are We Beginning to See the Light, say that advanced math and science will be useful even to those students not pursuing a STEM career. Nonetheless, more than half of parents surveyed (52 percent) said the math and science their child is getting is “fine as it is.”
June 2010

Closing the Expectations Gap, 2010
An annual report on states’ progress on aligning high school graduation requirements with the demands of college and the workplace, the National Governors Association and Achieve’s Closing the Expectations Gap, 2010, has some very happy news. Nearly every state has made progress on Achieve’s agenda of five areas of reform: standards, graduation requirements, P-20 data systems, assessments, and accountability. The report’s authors attribute the progress to state leadership.
March 2010

Teaching for a New World: Preparing High School Educators to Deliver College- and Career-Ready Instruction
The next generation of Americans must graduate from high school ready to compete in a world replete with technological change and rapidly changing labor markets, and their teachers must be ready to guide them. A policy brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education, Teaching for a New World: Preparing High School Educators to Deliver College- and Career-Ready Instruction, proposes a new concept for secondary teacher preparation that will ensure teachers are educated and supported to instruct to higher standards. This new concept calls for a focus on teacher performance, instead of on teacher education coursework; performance-based assessments; supporting effective programs and closing ineffective programs; the creation and enhancement of robust data systems that allow teacher and student information to be linked; and an investment in research.
November 2009

Online School for Girls
A consortium of independent all-girls’ schools that includes Harpeth Hall School (Tenn.), Holton-Arms School (Md.), Laurel School (Ohio), and Westover School (Conn.) is launching the new Online School for Girls. It is addressing two trends at once: single-sex education and online learning. The new school will offer two pilot courses in the fall semester and four courses in the spring semester. As Holton’s Director of Technology Brad Rathgeber says “We believe that girls inhabit online spaces differently than boys, and that this initiative can combine a powerful, transformative online learning environment for girls with a high-quality, 21st century academic experience.”
June 2009

Accelerating the Agenda: Actions to Improve America’s High Schools
Despite efforts to restore value to the high school diploma, school districts must continue to focus on college and career readiness to help maintain U.S. competitiveness, according to Accelerating the Agenda: Actions to Improve America’s High Schools. The report was published by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, National Conference of State Legislatures, Council of Chief State School Officers, and National Association of State Boards of Education.
January 2009

Opportunity Equation Report
Common standards for math and science and high-quality assessments that reflect an overhaul in how the subjects are taught are needed to improve student learning, according to a report by the Carnegie Institute for Advanced Study’s Commission on Mathematics and Science Education. The Opportunity Equation report says school leaders and others “need to embrace a new understanding that the world has shifted dramatically.”

Center for Public Education
NSBA’s Center for Public Education website has been redesigned. The new site is easier to navigate and offers interactive tools and the ability to share content with social networking sites. The site also features a new blog -- The Edifier -- devoted to hot topics in public education.

International Benchmarking Toolkit
The Education Commission of the States has released the International Benchmarking Toolkit, a resource for state policymakers, school district officials, principals, and teachers looking to raise the bar in America’s classrooms. The toolkit responds to growing concerns that U.S. students may lack work force competitiveness and are lagging behind those from high-performing countries.

The MILE Guide: Milestones for Improving Learning & Education
School districts now have a practical, hands-on tool for evaluating their integration of 21st century skills into their curriculum. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ The MILE Guide: Milestones for Improving Learning & Education, includes a self-assessment tool with three benchmarks (early stage, transitional stage, and 21st century) to help measure progress in student knowledge and skills; education support systems; leading and teaching; policymaking; partnering; and continuous improvement/strategic planning.

Making College and Career Readiness the Mission for High Schools: A Guide for State Policymakers
To help close the gap between what is expected of a high school graduate and what the postsecondary world demands, state leaders must develop policies to equate earning a diploma with college- and work-readiness, according to a report, Making College and Career Readiness the Mission for High Schools: A Guide for State Policymakers. Co-written by Achieve and The Education Trust, the report argues that the global nature of today’s economy dictates that all students have a high level of preparation if they are to meet the demands of family- supporting jobs -- many of which require postsecondary education.
November 2008

A Transition Brief: Policy Recommendations on Preparing Americans for the Global Skills Race
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has released A Transition Brief: Policy Recommendations on Preparing Americans for the Global Skills Race, which offers broad proposals for forging a workforce and creating an education system that will thrive in the 21st century. The brief notes that the current economic challenges cannot be adequately addressed without focusing on America's competitiveness, which is tied to the ability of Americans to effectively compete in the new global economy.
November 2008

Changing the Game: The Federal Role in Supporting 21st Century Educational Innovation
A new federal Office of Educational Entrepreneurship and Innovation within the Department of Education would expand the boundaries of public education by scaling up successful educational entrepreneurs, seeding transformative educational innovations, and building a stronger culture to support these activities throughout the public sector, according to a Brookings Institution report: Changing the Game: The Federal Role in Supporting 21st Century Educational Innovation.
October 2008

P21 Professional Development Affiliate Program
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills launched a new program establishing a network of experts who are specialists in helping states and districts design and implement 21st century skills with professional development programs. Participants in the P21 Professional Development Affiliate program form a cadre armed with the resources to align their professional development programs with the Partnership's Framework for 21st Learning.
September 2008

Youth Entrepreneurship Education in America: A Policymaker’s Action Guide
Youth Entrepreneurship Education in America: A Policymaker’s Action Guide, a publication from the Aspen Institute Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy Group examines the disconnect between what employers want and what America’s youth bring to the table. Far too often, it notes, the nation’s young people lack the skills that American companies look for to allow them to compete in a global economy. The skills deficit is particularly noticeable in science and math, as well as the ability to work in teams, think creatively, or to interact effectively.

Helping Students Learn, Education & Competiveness
Creating a 21st century education system for students, workers, and citizens is the central economic competitiveness issue currently facing the U.S., according to a new report released by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. The report, 21st Century Skills, Education & Competiveness, finds that in order to be globally competitive and attract growth industries and create jobs, the U.S. requires a fresh approach to education that recognizes the importance 21st century skills play.

High School Teaching for the 21st Century: Preparing Students for College
High school students need to be better prepared for college, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education brief High School Teaching for the 21st Century: Preparing Students for College. The brief recommends that states and districts raise high school standards and increase course requirements for graduation. These efforts should be paired with a concerted push to increase high school instructional rigor so that teaching is aligned with college expectations.
September 2007

Problem Solving in Technology-Rich Environments (TREs): A Report from the NAEP Technology-Based Assessment Project
Computer-based testing holds promise for measuring “21st century” and higher-order thinking skills that cannot be measured easily via traditional pencil-and-paper exams, a report from the National Center for Education Statistics says. The report, called Problem Solving in Technology-Rich Environments (TREs): A Report from the NAEP Technology-Based Assessment Project, is based on a study of how more than 2,000 eighth-grade students from U.S. public schools performed in one of two computer-based testing scenarios.
August 2007

Important, But Not For Me: Parents and Students in Kansas and Missouri Talk About Math, Science and Technology Education
Parents and students are aware of the need for more math, science, and technology education in the new global workplace, but they don’t think it applies to the – at least in Kansas and Missouri. Public Agenda’s research report Important, But Not For Me: Parents and Students in Kansas and Missouri Talk About Math, Science and Technology Education reveals a disconnect between theory and practice when it comes to technical education. They survey of Kansas and Missouri parents shows that only 25 percent think their children should be studying more math and science. About 70 percent think “things are fine as they are now.” About 75 percent of students say that math and science are irrelevant in their lives.

ePals Learning Space
Internet learning community provider ePals is offering its SchoolMail, SchoolBlog, and online literacy curricula services free to schools. More than 325,000 educators and students in 200 countries participate in the ePals’ Internet learning community. All of ePals’ tools have security standards so that districts can regulate student interactions based on their Internet policies.

Literacy Instruction in the Content Areas: Getting to the Core of Middle and High School Improvement
To compete successfully in a 21st century global economy, middle and high school students must be able to exceed standard reading levels, warns Literacy Instruction in the Content Areas: Getting to the Core of Middle and High School Improvement by the Alliance for Excellent Education.